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Take two: National Wildflower Centre restarts hunt for design team

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The National Wildflower Centre in Knowsley has shortlisted three firms in the contest to design its new masterplan having mothballed plans for a more expensive ‘architecturally striking’ complex

Purcell Architects, Maggie Mullan Architects and K2 Architects were told last week they were in the running for the revised project, which covers a scaled-down brief from the original £6million proposals.

Six years ago Ian Simpson Architects (now SimpsonHaugh and Partners) saw off the likes of Nicolas Tye Architects and Urban Salon Architects to win the RIBA-organised competition for a landmark educational, conference and seed production complex named Inspire.

But due to the ‘economic climate’ the scheme, which was drawn up with engineers Adams Kara Taylor, was subsequently put on hold.

Tony Jones, chief executive of Landlife at the National Wildflower Centre, told AJ: ‘The Inspire project remains with planning permission for the moment but we do not see any obvious opportunity to secure the several million pounds to deliver this project and there are more pressing matters at the National Wildflower Centre. Inspire remains an ambition but one it is difficult to see how we can secure in the short – medium term.’

He said that, instead, a masterplan for the site will be developed, extending ‘beyond normal architectural considerations’ to include interpretation, display gardens, site maintenance and business operations.

The brief asks architects to outline development objectives for the site, with the resulting masterplan used to support any future planning applications.

It also covers access and movement around the site, plus land uses, including green areas and drainage issues.

Ian Simpson’s design was granted planning permission in 2010. According to RIBA, it had been planned to feature a ‘powerful Fibonacci generated spiral solution which has a dramatic wild flower head inspired conference centre focus; a distinctive and memorable architectural statement cleverly combining the brief’s organic and mathematical themes’.

Interviews for the new masterplan competition are taking place this week, with a decision due to be made shortly after, Jones said.

Ian Simpson's National Wildflower Centre - contest winner 2009 - scheme currently on hold

Ian Simpson’s National Wildflower Centre proposals (2009) scheme currently on hold

Previous story (AJ 10.03.09)

Ian Simpson wins National Wildflower Centre

Ian Simpson Architects has landed the international design competition for a new ‘architecturally striking’ complex at the National Wildflower Centre in Knowsley

Five other firms were shortlisted for the RIBA-led competition, including DM3 Architecture, Kirkland Fraser Moor, Nicolas Tye Architects, Studio Verna and Urban Salon Architects.

According to RIBA, the winning proposal for the educational, conference and seed production complex features a ‘powerful Fibonacci generated spiral solution which has a dramatic wild flower head inspired conference centre focus; a distinctive and memorable architectural statement cleverly combining the brief’s organic and mathematical themes’.

Ian Simpson Architects is working on the project with engineering firms Adams Kara Taylor and Hoare Lea.

Backing the competition is Landlife, the wildflower charity, which already has £100,000 of funding for the competition provided through the Northwest Regional Development Agency.

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